I remember being blown away by a 350 fps bow shooting one-hole groups at 30 yards. These days, even budget bows will do. Crossbows have come a long way in a few short years, to the point where one of the most anticipated models of 2021 – the Excalibur TwinStrike Crossbow – will fire two bolts, side-by-side, as fast as you can aim and to pull the trigger.
Is this thing a scam? Better for zombies than deer? A double-barreled abomination to bend the seasons everywhere? Or the most useful hunting innovation to hit the mainstream bow market in years? I’ll get to answering all of these, but first, let’s examine the state of the bow market, and specifically where the Excalibur bows fit.
The sharp pace of bow innovation
Buyers’ expectations of mainspring bows changed around 2017 with the launch of the Ravin R15. Bow manufacturers suddenly realized that some hunters were willing to spend as much for an x-bow (and sometimes more) as they would for a custom rifle—that is, if the bow could live up to its promises of high-end performance. In Ravin’s case, the promise was 100-meter accuracy; gave in and changed everything.
Since then, a handful of super high-end models have been in a race to deliver the goods in terms of performance, innovation and cleanliness. wow factor. Last year TenPoint debuted a 470 fps crossbow paired with a range-finding Garmin sight that, once programmed, offered automatic aiming solutions out to 200 yards. This year, Ravin released a 500 fps bow equipped with an electronic recoil device—though it appears this model has suffered from manufacturing issues that have kept the new bow off store shelves thus far.
I have seen the competition unfold while doing main bow reviews for it Field & Flow during the last eight years. So far, the recovered models of Excalibur have not been quite successful with the very top dogs. This is partly because our test is hard on retrieval. Because they rely simply on bending the limbs to generate power, these bows are more difficult to weave and are also larger and noisier. They all shoot light bolts (about 350 grains, finished), making them relatively anemic on the power front.
However, test results don’t always tell the full story when it comes to their usefulness as hunting tools. I’ve seen about every type of malfunction you can imagine from a bow, but few from an Excalibur recoil. I have hunted with them extensively, and they are reliable and well built. Even if they give up some performance, their simple and utilitarian design has real advantages in the field.
How does Excalibur TwinStrike work?
Ironically, it’s that simple design that makes the TwinStrike possible. It’s called a repeater, but that’s not technically correct. The TwinStrike is really two compact bows built into a single frame. It has two sets of limbs, two wires, two barrels, two triggers and two rings. Each must be bent and shot individually. The only parts the two bows share – that I can see anyway – are the stock, safety and scope. It’s clever in a simple, “Why didn’t I think of that?” a kind of way. I’m no engineer, but I can’t see how a two-shot compound bow can be built within the confines of a practical hunting package. It is Excalibur’s regenerative design that makes this possible.
TwinStrike limbs are short, narrow and thick—reminiscent of the company’s compact Micro series of bows. The stock, also like the Micro series, is skeletonized to reduce weight. While the TwinStrike doesn’t have the heavy profile of the full-size Assassin series, it’s still a great bow. Fully assembled with accessories, including a quiver full of arrows and the Charger EXT flex, my test model weighed 11 pounds, 12 ounces. Of course, you can remove the quiver and the flex device is meant to be removed. That brings the weight down to 9 pounds, 10 ounces. But this is still quite heavy.
How well does Excalibur TwinStrike work?
In my tests, the TwinStrike performed exactly as advertised—even a little better. I approached the test pieces as if shooting two different bows. The upper barrel of my test model averaged 360.5 fps through my chronograph and had a 4-pound, 11-ounce trigger pull that was crisp and broke like glass. However, the lower barrel was better, averaging 364.5 fps, and with a trigger that was more than a pound lighter at 3 pounds, 2 ounces.
The bow comes with a 30mm OverWatch display that has an illuminated reticle that is graduated to 100 meters. -tuned my zero at 20 and 40 yards. On each string, the lower arrow hits less than 2 inches below the upper arrow, which Excalibur says it should do. In the end, you can aim for the heart of a buck and hit it with each barrel. As for each barrel’s accuracy, the upper group shot 7/8-inch groups and the lower group 1-inch at 30 yards.
One complaint I have about some mainsprings is that they cannot be physically bent without using a built-in ratchet-style device. These devices are proven to be reliable. However, in the forest, things break.
The Charger EXT included with the TwinStrike certainly makes bending the bow easy (up to about 12 pounds of effort). It’s a smooth system, but it also disconnects. For fun, I also attached a standard rope winding aid to the TwinStrike and managed to wind it up just fine. It takes a pretty good scratch and a snort to do this, but I like the idea of having a backup method of bending the bow. The TwinStrike can be removed without firing, too, with the use of an included twist removal tool and EXT charger.
What are the downsides of Excalibur TwinStrike?
As mentioned, the TwinStrike is a little on the heavy side. Also, the loading of barrels must be done in the correct sequence, for safety reasons. The TwinStrike features CeaseFire technology, which is a dry fire stop device that prevents the bow from firing unless an arrow is in place, the safety is off, and the trigger is pulled. This is pretty standard.
But then again, the TwinStrike is really two bows, and they share a safety mechanism. After cocking one barrel, the safety must remain off to cock the other barrel. The proper procedure goes: insert the upper barrel, then the lower. Then engage security. Next, load an arrow into the lower barrel, followed by the upper one. It’s not complicated, but if you do something wrong or forget a step—like engaging the safety—you can end up with your hand on the tip of a broadhead arrow in a loaded bow. Even if you avoid this, without following these steps precisely, it is difficult to continue to load the bow without getting your fingers between a rail and the string at some point.
Maybe you’re a bow veteran and think you’re immune to rookie mistakes. But just the other day my friend Hugh, who has been shooting bows for 20 years and sells them in his sporting goods store, cut off two of his fingers while shooting a bull. Mistakes happen in the heat of the moment. For this reason, I think a three-position safety for independent use of both barrels would be a nice upgrade for the next generation TwinStrike.
What are the biggest advantages?
What sets TwinStrike apart, of course, is the second shot. And from a practical hunting standpoint, it’s a big deal.
Like other Excaliburs, the TwinStrike fires short, light arrows (it’s designed for use with 16.5-inch Rhino Nock bolts that have an updated nock design, compared to older-style Excalibur arrows). Including a 100-grain field point, the bolts weigh 352 grains, generating about 100 pounds of kinetic energy. Overwhelming power is a big selling point with bows, and this one doesn’t have it. Multiple x compound bows that are more compact will shoot harder and flatter.
But having actually killed many things with bows, I can tell you they will everything blow through the shoulders of a deer or anything at 40 yards. And they will everything group to 100 yards from a good break if your scope is dialed accordingly with your camera. Inside 50 yards, where you should be limiting your field shots anyway, the TwinStrike’s ability to fire a quick second shot easily offsets the speed advantage of its competitors.
The TwinStrike costs around $2,000, which certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s still less than some of the competition. As major arcs go, it’s actually one of the best bargains out there right now. Probably the best.
Would it be a good fit for a zombie movie? Oh, hell yes. Is it disgusting to bend the season? Absolutely, but no more so than any other high bow on the market. I’m not too interested in long range shooting at anything, anything. But give me a second shot when the first one doesn’t go as planned — or better yet, when that second deer or pig is standing there looking confused — and I’ll take it every time.
- Note – It is possible that some states may change their device regulations due to TwinStrike. Be sure to check and see that this bow is legal in your state before purchasing.